Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 30, 2009
Synod for Africa will help continent nurture its unique cultures
BY CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — The working document for this fall’s Synod of Bishops for Africa called for a united effort among Catholics to help end the rampant injustices fueling conflicts on the continent and to usher in an era of peace.
The document said the synod would have to find ways to better prepare the faithful in Africa for a more visible and active role in promoting unity in the church and in society and in working for the common good.
Pope Benedict released the document, called an instrumentum laboris, March 19 during a Mass in Yaounde, Cameroon.
The Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa will be held in the Vatican Oct. 4-25.
The working document was highly critical of the effects of globalization on the continent, saying it “infringes on Africa’s rights” and tends “to be the vehicle for the domination of a single, cultural model and a culture of death.”
But it also pinned the blame for many of Africa’s ills on the evil in people’s hearts, which makes them thirsty for riches, power or revenge.
The first African synod was held in 1994 and looked at evangelization through personal witness. The second assembly is expected to allow Church leaders to address the continent’s changing religious, demographic, social and political scenes. It will also discuss new ways to proclaim the Gospel by being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”
The document said that belonging to the universal Church helps each Catholic put aside his or her differences of origin or ethnicity.
The Church’s sacraments, especially the sacrament of Reconciliation, help guide people to replace fear with hope and the logic of revenge with reconciliation, it said.
Despite many signs of renewal and reform, Africa still faces many problems, said the text.
Political instability and selfish leaders continue to compromise peace in parts of Africa, it said.
Decades of armed conflict in Africa have led to “a culture of violence, division and warrior heroes.” The continued sale of arms by rich nations to ruling oligarchies fuels numerous wars, the document said.
In addition, the document said, international financial programs aimed at restructuring the African economy “seem to be having a dire effect.”
The forced restructuring has led to an extremely fragile economy and the breakdown of society. That breakdown can be seen by increased crime, the widening gap between rich and poor and massive migration to already overcrowded cities, said the text.
EFFECTS OF GLOBALIZATION
The document was especially critical of the effects of globalization.
It criticized multinational corporations that “systematically invade the continent in search of natural resources.” Africa’s rights are infringed upon by nations seeking control of its enormous mining reserves.
Globalization risks seriously harming societies with its “logic of the world economy” which disregards the spiritual, moral and cultural values and gifts of local African traditions and religious faith, said the text.
“A process organized to destroy the African identity seems to be taking place under the pretext of modernity,” it said.
Because of rampant illiteracy and a lack of investment in education, people — especially the young — are more vulnerable to “the false values propagated by the mass media” and political propaganda.
It also strongly warned against thinking genetically modified crops would solve Africa’s food crises.
Using GM crops risks “ruining small landholders, abolishing traditional methods of seeding and making farmers dependent on the production companies” selling their genetically modified seeds, it said.
Concerning endemic diseases and HIV and AIDS, the document highlighted the Church’s dedication to the sick.
The document stressed the important role the Church can play in being a model for peace, justice and reconciliation.
It called the Church a beacon of hope for those suffering from war, poverty and injustice because in Christ they can “find hope and a taste for living.”